How to become a Project Manager - treat the effort as a project
A project is a temporay effort designed to accomplish a unique goal. You would like to become the leader. Treat your own career growth as a goal. This is a simple project that will act as a very useful guide for you as you apply your efforts. The basics are:
Goal: to become a project manager
- obtain training in the various project management phases and processes
- obtain exerience in the various management phases and processes
- join the Project Management Institute
- study specific materials relevant to the Professional exams
- write a profession exam
- optimistic: 3 months
- realistic: 6 months
- worst case: 4 years
- training: $1000
- join the PMI: $125
- write the PMP exam: $500
Project management triple constraints
Scope, cost and schedule are known as the "Triple Constraints". To become a manager, you must understand what is involved with each of these. Scope refers to the items that must be accomplished during the project. Define each item in terms of what must be completed and how you can prove that it is completed. The scope items lead to requirements and deliverables. For you to become a project manager, the scope item "Training" is required. The deliverable is complete when a valid course completion certificate is stored in the documentation file.
For this simple example, the schedule is not rigid, (at least not at the start). To become a PM, you need training, experience and a thorough knowledge of the PMP exam topics. This may take a few months if you are already a practicing PM. If you do not have sufficient professional experience, you will need to develop a portfolio along with your training scope items. When you are ready, and you commit to take the PMP exam, however, the schedule becomes much more rigid as you will then have a deadline for writing the exam.
Cost is also a variable when you want to become a project manager. At first you will be able to use free or inexpensive resources. You should upgrade to commercial products that will bolster your knowledge as you require more complicated or focused instruction.
How to document as you become a project manager
As you work, it is not enough to simply do the studying necessary, take a course or two and write the exam. The PMI insists that you maintain a documentation file proving each claim that you make. This fits with your goal of becoming a PM. As you complete a piece of training, you should document the fact with clear evidence. When you complete a project management training course, file a copy of the course outline with a copy of your completion certificate. Make sure you include the course dates, instructor name, cost and venue in your file. The Project Management Institute requires you to attest that you took a formal project management training course. Your documentation will prove that you did. If you organize your documentation early, you will have it available quickly when it is required.
This requirement for documentation also applies to professional experience. The PMI requires that you have completed many hours of professional work. This must include some time in each of the phases. You will be required to attest or prove your experience claim. If you worked to obtain executive approval to start the work, that will be classed as work in the initiation phase. If you worked on creating deliverable items, that will be classed as work in the execution phase. You need to document your experience, in hours and months, for each of these types of activities. When you have tallied enough time, you can prove your experience using your documentation file.
Becoming a project manager - the Professional exam
The last deliverable for your career is the successful completion of the Project Management Institute Project Management Professional exam. This is a comprehensive exam that tests your skill in a wide range of management, and business, areas. Questions are asked on each of the project management phases. Questions about ethics will be asked. You may be asked business questions requiring cost or performance calculations. You may be asked quality control questions. The PMI maintains a very large repository of questions. Each exam draws 200 questions from the repository. No two exam writers will have exactly the same exam.
The exam is tough and designed to test both your knowledge as a project manager and your ability to follow the Project Management Institute's naming standards. If your work agency refers to a particular document as a "Charter" or similar title, you must ignore that and refer to the document as a "Project Plan". You must learn the names of the documents, phases and processes as defined by the Institute. This is how you will be tested so you must have the names clear in your mind. The exam is part common sense, part experience and part memorization. The memorization must fit that expected by the Institute. Many experienced managers have not completed the exam successfully simply because they did not memorize the Institute's terminology. Don't make that mistake yourself!
After you become certified
With all of the training and studying that you require to become certified, you certainly will have accomplished a significant goal. Luckily, you will not have to apply yourself to this again in the future, if you comply with the Continuing Certification Requirements. These allow you to earn achievement credits that may be applied towards your certification renewal in three years. You are required to earn 60 credits in various professional or training activities. When you do, you may submit proof to the Institute, pay the current renewal fee and receive a three year extension to your certification.
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